Monday, July 26, 2004

Video Game Violence

From my experience, the video game world is mostly dominated by males.  This is not necessarily because violence is a guy thing, but maybe because the games are more geared towards males.  This could be viewed as a chicken and the egg type phenomenon as well because one could ask why the games are geared towards a predominately male audience.  Males could be more likely to play the games because they are tailored for them, or they could be tailored for them because males are more likely to purchase the games. 

I can definitely immagine an alternate set of games that would not have violence and would appeal to women as well as men.  From my own experience, when I was younger we had some games that were about finishing levels and getting past things that would just make you have to start the level over again.  This, as I remember, was equally appealing to my brother and me.  Now, however, there are games such as "Grand Theft Auto" and the like, that my brother plays, but I have no interest in.  This might also be because of the fact that it is a lot more complicated and takes a lot more time to master than the other games did.  I dont have very much patience and, when I want to play a game, I want it to feel like a game and not something that I have to spend a lot of time on just to understand and be able to do.  This might also be one of the reasons why most women are not as into games as men are.

As Kendall talks about men and women both distancing themselves from femininity (85) in the muds, it could be the same in the gaming community.  There is a large amout of competitiveness and trash talk that goes on and so it might be beneficial for the women to adopt a more masculine identity when participating in games online.  In the same respect, women who are more masculine might be more attracted to most of the games that are out there.  That means that the games would only appeal to that portion of women who embodied more masculine traits. 

As for games making a lasting impression on the way kids grow up, I would have to say that I am not as concerned as some are.  I think that excessive use of video games is probably harmful, just as excessive watching of television or excessive internet use would be.  Kids should be learning and interacting with their environment and not just sitting in front of a tv or a computer.  But, as for influencing the tendency of the child to commit violent acts, I dont think there is such a large connection.  I feel that, in order for a child to be influenced, they would have to have little or no parental supervision or involvement and would have to have some other sort of mental problem in addition to the violence in games.  If a parent is doing his/her job and making it clear to their children that violence is wrong, then a child should be able to differentiate between the games he/she plays and reality.

There is definitely a difference with the games now and the ones that i had when I was growing up.  They have made some giant leaps in the graphics, types of games available, and sheer number of games and devices that are available.  If I had kids, I would not ban them from playing video games but I would definitely not let them sit in front of it for hours on end.  Their game playing would have limits and I would definitely make sure that they knew that there were differences from what is acceptable behavior in a video game as opposed to in real life. 

Monday, July 19, 2004

Option Two: Real Life vs. Online Identity

The difference between online and "real life" identities stems from the fact that, online, you can be largely whoever you want.  There is a large amount of anonymity that one can work with when choosing who they want to be portrayed as when they are online.  People virtually have the choice (although it might not be considered largely moral or right) whether they are going to "be" someone totally different than they are in real life. 
 
For one, when I go online, I feel like I am less inhibited than when I am talking to people on a face to face basis.  I am more able to get out what I want to say because I am able to use the gaps in conversation to think of what I would like to get across to the people/person I am talking to.  There is also the faceless nature of online chatting that makes it easier to talk to people when they cant see you or judge you based on your appearance or other things that real life encounters are more based on. 
 
From my experience in chat rooms and instant messenger programs, I would have to say that it does make a difference whether you are male or female.  As Kendall says, there is the issue of men being more talkative and perhaps more agressive in their topics of conversation or how they come across.  I have found that to be true.  I think that, as a female, I get more solicitations from men looking for someone of the opposite sex to talk to.  Even when I am just online for the purpose of talking to people I know, I tend to get random messages from males looking for female companionship.  I dont think that men get that kind of solicitation from females.  This may stem from the age old ideals and beliefs about men being in charge of relationships and "making the first move" when dealing with women. 
 
Regarding my profile: in this class I chose to be largely anonymous, mostly because of the questions that were asked.  I dont have a favorite author and, while the movies that I like might tell something about my personality, I chose not to include them.  In that respect, I would say that my personality doesnt really come out in my blogger profile.  I would not say I am playing at being a good student, or not, for that matter.  I wouldnt say that my likes and dislikes would reflect whether I am or not.  However, in my profile for the messenger services I use, I definitely include more about myself and more information that could be used to delve into my personality and how I feel about things.  I am largely sarcastic and somewhat playful in the information I provide, thereby not including too much personal information, but including bits that could tell people that I dont take myself too seriously and perhaps they shouldnt either.
 
All in all, I would say that, when talking to people online, someone can create a character that is based on them, but inhabits characteristics that they would wish to have.  It is, essentially, a more perfect version of reality.  When you are talking to people who you never plan to meet, it is easy to fib and bend reality a little to make yourself either more of what you feel that they want, or more of what you feel you should be.  It is a way to be more of what you want to be rather than what you are.  Also, in online communication, I would say that less emphasis is placed on what you look like and more is placed on what you have to say and how intelligent you come across as.  Nobody is going to want to chat with someone with nothing to say,  nomatter how physically beautiful they may be.  While, in real life, people with more physical beauty might be given more slack for being dull and boring.

Monday, July 12, 2004

definition of Artificial Life

Artificial intelligence deals with making a machine think. Computers are artificial intelligence. However, artificial life deals with not only thinking, but reacting, adapting, and evolving with surroundings and environments. As Kember says, the keywords to ALife are "adaptive, robust and flexible" (2). This is not something that computers today have achieved. Kember uses the example of the mouse and the computer. A computer that can play chess could be thought of as smart, but with all its knowledge, it will never be as smart as a mouse (2).

The relation between artificial life and artificial intelligence can be summed up by the mouse example, or one could say that, while we have been able to achieve artificial intelligence, we have not yet been able to create something that has artificial life. Life is "a kind of behaviour, not a kind of stuff" (3). This is to say that, while we can make stuff that seems to be smart and can think, we can not make things that can behave in ways that humans do.

ALife started in the late 1980's and its stated aims are "to create viable computer simulations of biological forms and processes as a method of studying natural life, and to synthesise new forms of artificial life in both hardware and software" (2).

The game of life was developed by John Conway, a Cambridge mathemetician. The purpose was to ". . .support the emergence of all recognisable animal forms and an infinite number of new ones" (70). It consists of a number of "cells" which can live, die or multiply, based on a few rules and depending on the initial conditions and the various patterns throughout the course of the game.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Midterm Paper Summary

My thesis is:
"Websites can be about the exact same religion and have some similarities, yet have significant differences in format, content, message, and projected audience."

My Argument is:
The first is to compare and contrast the format of the two sites that I looked at. The second is to contrast the content. Then I looked at the different messages that the two sites were trying to get across. Lastly, I contrasted their projected audiences.

My evidence is:
The evidence came from the websites i was comparing and contrasting. I used quotations from them and did an in-depth comparison using information from the sites as evidence.

My outside sources are:
The Brasher text, a site called Judaism 101 (http://www.jewfaq.org), and a site called Shamash: The Jewish Network (htt[://shamash.org)

Possible refutations of my argument are:
People could possibly say that sites about the same religion are essentially for the same group of people. The people who write the sites make them for people who are interested in that religion, no matter their background. In that way, all websites about the same religion are written for the same audience. People could also say that websites about the same religion all have the same information in them, and that they all have similar formats and content (because they are about the same religion, how could they differ in content all that much).

My conclusion is:
"Sites focusing on the same religion can be and often are very different mostly with regard to whom they are aimed at helping or informing."

Monday, June 28, 2004

week 2: hate.com & Virtual Inequality

Compare and contrast the arguments Brasher puts forward in her book with the evidence youve seen on the hate.com video. do you think brasher's ideas work in the light of hate.com? are they still valid?

For starters, Brasher does not really dwell very heavily on the negative side of online religion. Groups such as Christial Identity dont really hold internet religion in high standing or add to the argument that online religion is an important, beneficial, positive, and worthy addition to our society. As Brasher says, "This book is not neutral about religion. Its central thesis-that religious expression in cyberspace should be a protected and supported use of the virtual domain. . ." (11). Therefore, dwelling on the negative aspects of religion (especially negative religions that promote racism and hate) being accessable for everyone (especially impresionable people who buy into it and children) would not be in Brasher's best interest if she wants to make her point seem more plausable.

I would say that Brasher's arguments for online religion are still valid. She has a point to make, and she makes it rather well. However, it is always a good idea to state the opposing argument when trying to convince people of something and to tell them reasons why it is not feasable. She sort of ignores the opposition and continues telling us why it is a good thing. Im not saying that online religion is a bad thing. As she said in her book, there are a great many reasons why it is a good thing but that does not mean she should overlook the reasons why it might not be so positive.

One thing that struck me as strange about the people involved in the hate crimes was that the individuals who seemed to be in power or high-up roles in the organizations were seemingly smart and educated. I would think that only very impressionable people would buy into ideas such as they have. However, I also noticed that those people were not the ones who adopted the Lone Wolf personas and carried out the crimes in the name of white pride. They had no problem preaching their beliefs to weaker minded individuals and letting them do the dirty work.

It is definitely tragic that the ideals of the white power organizations can be so readily available to the general public, including children without the knowledge of their parents. However, there are also religions that have much more socially acceptable and moral values that are just as readily available. It is definitely a give and take situation with the internet spreading so many ideas so quickly. But, as I said, I definitely think Brashers ideas are still valid. Maybe not well rounded from the standpoint of taking everything into consideraton, but she does bring up many good and justifiable arguments.

Virtual Inequality:

I feel that some of the arguments in this book are pointless. Why, all of a sudden, is internet access one of the basic needs for survival? I understand that, in todays working world, being able to use technology is essential. However, there are ways to learn and achieve technological proficiency without actually having a computer. If the interest and drive for knowledge is there, there should be no reason why an individual should not be able to gain the skills that are important in this day and age. According to Mossberger, "when compared to the access measure, however, internet use figures can give the impression that technology gaps are narrower than the actually are, especially if frequency of use in locations outside the home is not taken into account." (19). This means that, when we disregard access at locations outside the home, gaps appear smaller. That means that people without access in the home are using computers at other locations.

If we disregard the advantage that computer proficiency gives people in the working world, we could plausibly ask why people actually need internet access. Prior to the '90s, the internet was not widespread and people did not "need" it in order to survive. Mossberger says that "those lacking a home connection are less likely to use the internet in other places such as libraries. . .[which suggests] a lack of interest. . .regarding the internet" (33). This implies there are still people who are not interested in using or learning how to use the internet, which further implies that people do not really need it.

Mossberger suggests that ". . .information literacy may be particularly problematic for some individuals, however, in particular those who lack basic literacy." (38). I think this is a definite reversal of values in society. Shouldnt we place more emphasis on basic literacy than the ability to use the internet? I think we need to reevaluate our priorities.

Another problem I see in the arguments that Mossberger makes is one about different ways that people prefer to learn how to use the internet. There is a large amount of research going in to how people would like to learn about the internet. I think, with all the advantages of being knowledgeable about technology (". . .for use on the job, for finding a job, and for learning. . ." (61), people should want to learn how. So, the people who are enlightened enough to want to learn about the internet should just take whatever educational opportunities they can get.

All in all I feel that, while internet access in the home is a competitive advantage, it is not a necessity of life. It is not something that should be this widely researched, and not something that this much thought and effort and money should go into. It would be nice if everyone could have a computer in their home, but there ARE other places to get access and there is nothing stopping people who want to from using those alternate access oportunities.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

What do Religions Do?

What, in culture, do religions do for people?

In a culture, religions give people a feeling of belonging. They are able to come together in a somewhat exclusive group of their peers and get a feeling of comraderie with that group of people. They all belong to the same belief system, and they are able to come together in a group to discuss and think about those beliefs. The author of our book states that religious people and their traditions make a valuable, necessary contribution to the civil society (11). This is true, in a sense. Without religion, the world would be a wholly different place. A lot of good things are done in the name of religion: people who are less fortunate are helped, religions give people a reason for living, make people feel that they are a part of a larger whole, etc. However, religion has also been the reason for a lot of bad things that have happened in society. While this is a fact of life, it is not the one that religious people choose to dwell upon when they think of religion. They choose to focus on the positive aspects of religion and what it can do for them and for the culture they live in. In the same way, the internet and cyberspace can be used for good (virtue) or bad (vice). And, as Brasher says, "As troubling as instances of cyber-vice can be, the marvels of cyber-virtues are comparably impressive. (118)

According to Sigmund Freud, religion is a form of mass neurosis and exists only as a response to deep emotional conflicts and weaknesses. Since it is nothing more but a by-product of psychological distress, Freud argued that it should be possible to eliminate the illusions of religion by alleviating that distress. This makes sense in a way, to explain why people feel compelled to participate in organized religion. Maybe they feel that their life is lacking in some way, and that participating in religion will fill that void. However, I do not feel that it is essential to "elimitate the illusions of religion" if that is what makes the person happy and fulfilled. They should continue to believe what they believe. In this sense, I agree partially with Freud in that he explains why people join religios groups, but not that they should rid themselves of the "illusion" and return to "normal" lives without religion. Religion does have its purpose in society.

For people like Julia and David (in chapter 4), the internet gives them a way to connect with people who make them feel better about themselves, or what they believe in. David was able to find himself through the Monastary he visited, and to achieve a feeling of inner peace. Julia, on the other hand, was able to connect with people of a similar faith and become more involved in activities with her fellow Pagans. This means that the internet, while not as face-to-face as religious activities that happen in the realm of real life, is an invaluable tool for some people who wouldnt get what they needed from real life religious happenings.

Definitely, for the people who benefit from it and who possibly will in the future, online religion should (as Brasher says) be protected and subsidized. When looking at how many people it helps, it would be foolish not to have such a useful and integral tool for modern religion available to the masses.

There are probably an infinite number of reasons why people participate in religious activities, and another infinite number of possibilities for what religions do for people, however, I think what we should look at what religions should do for people. I feel that religion should give people a feeling of security in their lives. They should be able to feel that there is a higher power that exists to look over them and keep them from harm. Whether this is feasable or not is not the issue. Feeling like there is someone or something watching out for you must be largely comforting. Also, people should be able to belong to a group that harbours similar beliefs. This will give them a feeling of belongingness as well as probably a feeling of superiority to people who are not in their "group". They are able to come together at regular intervals to join together not only their thoughts and feelings about their religion, but to be a part of a group with people they feel comfortable with and relate to.

All in all, religion brings people together, makes them feel better about the lives they are living, and is an outlet for feelings, emotions, and opinions in a largely supportive group whether it be a large part of one's life or whether the person is a passive participant.

According to Brasher, ". . .religious expression in cyberspace should be a protected and supported use of the virtual domain. . ." (11). I am not sure how one would go about protecting and supporting it, but it is definitely useful for people to have that kind of virtual support system. Also, it is important for people who might be searching for a new religion or just researching to find out about religions they arent very knowledgeable about. The web is a good way for people to learn about most anything, so why shouldnt religion be available for people to research? And, as Brasher says, internet is "Continuously accessible and ostensibly disconnected from the cycles of the earth. . ." (52), which makes it that much easier for people to witness and participate in religion at any time of the day.

Monday, June 21, 2004

first posting

I think this class will be an opportunity to express opinions about hot topics of today. We will be able not only to discuss in class, but also to have the chance to express ourselves through our blogs. This will be very useful to the people who are not as open and social and who aren't as likely to share their opinions in class. I think that I will be learning not only about what I feel about the issues we will be dealing with, but what other people think. That, I think, might even make me think more in-depth about what I feel and may allow me to come to different conclusions about issues dealing with race, religion, ethnicity, ability, gender, and sexuality.